By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Thurs. Jan. 9, 2014: Puerto Rico national, Melissa Mark-Viverito, made history in New York City yesterday, becoming the first Latina, first Puerto Rican and first person of color to be selected to serve as Speaker of the 51-member New York City Council.
Mark-Viverito, 44, whose last name comes from her late father, Anthony Mark, and the maiden name of her mother, Elizabeth Viverito, replaces Christine Quinn as speaker of the council.
She represents Council District Eight, a district that includes parts of the Upper East Side, Spanish Harlem/El Barrio/East Harlem, Manhattan Valley, Mott Haven in the Bronx, Randalls and Wards Islands and Central Park.
Mark-Viverito was born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico to a dad who was a doctor and a founder of San Pablo Hospital in Bayamón and her mother, Elizabeth Viverito, who still lives in Puerto Rico.
She migrated to New York at age 18 to attend college and earned a BA from Columbia in 1991 and a master’s from Baruch College, City University of New York in 1995.
Mark-Viverito is a former member of Community Board 11, coordinator of the movement Todo Nueva York con Vieques, president of Mujeres del Barrio and was a strategic organizer for Local 1199 of Service Employees International Union.
Before she entered elected office, Speaker Mark-Viverito, who was supported by new Mayor Bill de Blasio, ran unsuccessfully against Philip Reed for City Council in district 8 in 2003.
She was elected to her first term in the City Council in 2005. During her first four years in office, she sponsored and passed several pieces of legislation, regarding tenant harassment, building safety, green buildings and park conservancies.
In January 2009, Mark-Viverito criticized the voting record of newly appointed New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on immigration.
In March 2010, Mark-Viverito and 11 other Council Members announced the formation of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus. She currently serves as Co-Chair of the Caucus along with Brooklyn Council Member Brad Lander.
CANDIDACY AND RIVALRY
According to Politicker, a grassroots effort to boost the Speaker candidacy of Mark-Viverito included social media, fliers, phone banking, and volunteer recruitment and despite reports that she did not report rental income in her taxes. She says it was a mistake and is working to fix the problem and will eventually release her tax returns.
She was selected as the new Speaker on Jan. 8, 2014 after challenger, Dan Garodnick, withdrew his candidacy shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday. Garodnick had pressed his candidacy even after Mark-Viverito declared she had majority support last month, and the Bronx and Queens Democratic chairs, with 20 Council members on their side, resisted de Blasio’s pressure to get on board with Mark-Viverito. Garodnick had received support from councilmembers aligned with the Queens Democratic organization.
Garodnick and his team agreed to back Mark-Viverito half an hour after the vote was scheduled and hugged his former rival.
In a statement, Garodnick said, in part, “I look forward to working with Speaker Mark-Viverito and to helping her to ensure that we can deliver a sound and responsible government for all New Yorkers.”
MARK –VIVERITO’S REACTION
“I hope that as young Latinas and Latinos are witnessing this moment, they are able to dream that much bigger and are inspired to work that much harder because we have broken through one more barrier,” Mark-Viverito said after the selection.
She added that the council must work together and “be unified in our common cause – delivering for New Yorkers.”
Caribbean American Congresswoman, Yvette D. Clarke, was among New Yorkers lauding the election of Mark-Viverito as the fourth Speaker of the Council.
“With the people of New York City, I congratulate Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito as she becomes the Speaker of the New York City Council,” said Congresswoman Clarke. “I have known her as an activist in her community and as a colleague on the city council, and I am certain of her dedication to the equitable distribution of our city’s resources, to fairness on behalf of the families in each of the five boroughs of New York City, to opportunity for the children who tomorrow will inherit the city we build today.”